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Book Review: “The Messy Lives of Book People”

What is a “book person”? Does the mere love of reading qualify someone for the title? Is it a matter of how often one reads or, perhaps, how many books one collects? Does the growing stack of books competing with the height of the lampshade on one’s bedside table mean one is a book person?


In the 2022 novel The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick, we receive a glimpse into the lives of various book people. One such book person, main character Olivia (Liv) Green, has been an avid reader since childhood with aspirations to author some of her own books one day. Another book person, beloved and bestselling author Essie Starling, has been reading and writing for the better half of her life.


The book begins some three decades after Liv’s initial infatuation with books. Now in her forties, Liv finds herself as the house cleaner for one of her personal heroes—the famous author and notoriously mysterious recluse, Essie Starling.


As a mother of two and partner to the owner of a struggling book binding business, Liv is constantly fighting to make ends meet. After establishing herself as one of the few people Essie talks to, Liv finds herself the recipient of Essie’s surprising last wish: that Liv complete the 20th novel in Essie’s beloved Georgia Rory series.


While Liv’s own writing sits unfinished on her desk, she grows increasingly excited and anxious about the opportunity to finish Essie’s life work. In order to complete this task, Liv both literally and figuratively steps into the late author’s shoes. She also begins to embody the essence of Georgia Rory herself, the main character in Essie’s fiction, by donning the traditional Georgia Rory outfit: black blazer, knee-length floral dress, and striped tie. Liv has admired Georgia Rory’s bold confidence and brazen attitude since she was a young girl. In her hardest moments, in fact, she’s often asked herself, “What would Georgia Rory do?”


As Liv sets to work on Essie’s final chapters, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women, and one of them will change Liv’s personal story forever.


My sister-in-law recommended this book to me, and I would recommend it to you. The story is quirky, compelling, full of interesting characters, and is a generally quick read. Best of all, the book contains a surprising ending I did not see coming.


The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick is a story of connecting and befriending the characters in the books we love. It’s a testament to the way books inspire us, infuse our lives with meaning, and provide hope for hard times. Ultimately, The Messy Lives of Book People shows us that book people are, at the very least, anyone who loves to read. At the very best, book people learn and grow from the fictional characters they encounter, equating them more to lifelong friends than mere personas on the page.

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